PREVIEW: Luton Town v Chesterfield
A desperately disappointing start to the season for Chesterfield saw manager Gary Caldwell pay the price, losing his job after last weekend's 2-1 defeat at home to Accrington.
Taking over in January, the former Wigan chief couldn’t halt a slide to League Two, winning just two league games out of 19, but any hopes of an instant return to the third tier have taken a hit with a terrible run of results this term.
A 3-1 home defeat to Grimsby on opening day wasn’t a great start by any means, while they then fell to a 2-0 loss at Notts County.
Although the Spireites managed a 2-0 win over Port Vale to get them up and running, it’s been downhill ever since, taking just two points from their last five games, with heavy defeats at Newport (4-1) and Crewe (5-1).
Saturday’s reverse left them languishing second from bottom, as the club acted swiftly to call time on Caldwell’s reign, with director Ashley Carson saying: “Gary has worked very hard during his time at the club, but we find ourselves in a lowly position after providing him with substantial backing in the transfer market.
“After making a very poor start to the season, we feel now is the time to appoint a new manager to bring about a change in fortunes.”
Guy Branston, who was working as the club’s director of recruitment and development, was named caretaker manager to take the club at Luton, but he clearly isn’t expecting to be the full time solution, saying: “I don’t think I’ll be in the role for very long, applicants are coming in thick and fast,
“It’s terrible that a manager has lost his job, I worked for that man and I liked working for him, he did some great things behind the scenes here and I’ve got a lot of praise for him.
“Fans want football matches won, they don’t see the behind the scenes because they think a win’s the most important thing and rightly so.
“My element in this now is that I’ve got to step up and try to win a football match, I’m happy to take on board what Gary has left here and tweak it to try to win the matches that fans want.
“Luton are a fantastic side, I went to watch them on Saturday and I’ll be putting my ideas in this week’s training.
“These things need to be digested and the things you pick up as a director of recruitment, watching 300-400 games a year, you can’t implement them, but now I can and I’m going to do it my way.
“The new manager will want to do things his way and you have to respect that, I think I’ve respected the club by stepping up, I could have shied away from it but that’s not me, I’m going to stick my chest out see what happens and be willing to fight for the cause and that’s winning on Saturday.”
Caldwell had been backed in the transfer window prior to his exit, as he brought in the likes of Chris O’Grady and Jak McCourt, plus Matthew Briggs, while Brad Barry, Gozie Ugwu, Jerome Binnom-Williams and Joe Anyon all came in too.
Wigan midfielder Jordan Flores joined on loan as well and he was disappointed to see Caldwell depart, adding: “I’m gutted about the gaffer going, he brought me in and gave me the opportunity to play, which I wasn’t getting at Wigan.
“But we have to move on to Saturday and hopefully get a result.”
It’s the second time that Hatters face a Chesterfield team without a permanent manager too, as the visitors had sacked former Hatter Danny Wilson before their visit in the Checkatrade Trophy last term, with Ritchie Humphreys in temporary charge.
Team news: Luton midfielder Alan McCormack will have a late test on his groin injury, meaning just Lawson D’Ath is unavailable.
For Chesterfield, Jerome Binnom-Williams (ankle) and Joe Rowley (broken collarbone) are both out, while Ian Evatt could come back into contention after being frozen out by Caldwell.
Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (6). Spireites: Kristian Dennis (5).
Man in the middle: Charles Breakspear – has taken nine games this season, showing 39 yellows and two reds, handing out 13 cautions in his last two games.
Refereed Luton three times last season, coincidentally, the 4-0 win over Chesterfield at Kenilworth Road and then both games with Newport County, sending off Luton’s Johnny Mullins in the 2-1 home win in which he awarded a last minute penalty for the Hatters to win it.
Also dismissed ex-Town defender Mark O’Brien as Luton were held to a 1-1 draw in Wales later in the campaign too.
Officiated Luton twice in the 2015-16 season, with the 1-0 wins against Leyton Orient and Dagenham, while had the 2-2 draw with York in February 2015, showing reds to Jake Hyde and Steve McNulty.
Luton are yet to lose with Breakspear in charge too as his only other match was a 2-2 draw at Cambridge United in March 2013, when both sides were in the Blue Square Bet Premier.
Mark Derrien and Christopher Kidd are the assistants, with Stuart Butler the fourth official.
In charge: Guy Branston, 38-year-old, former centre half who was appointed the club’s director of recruitment and development in April, before being named caretaker manager this week.
After starting as a trainee with Leicester City, he went on to play over 400 games in a career that included spells with Rotherham United, Sheffield Wednesday, Oldham Athletic, Peterborough, Burton Albion and Plymouth Argyle.
After hanging up his boots, joined Notts County as chief scout in February 2015, leaving the following year to become operations manager at Nuneaton Town, before joined the Spireites five months ago.
View from the opposition: Midfielder Jordan Flores: “We expect to be higher up in the table, and hopefully we can put that right.
“We’ve had a couple of training sessions with Guy, obviously nobody knows what will happen in the future regarding a new manager, but Guy has just done his best to put a squad together that will hopefully get us a result at Luton.
“We have a good idea of how Luton want to play.
“They’re strong going forward, but we’ve had a look at their weaknesses and hopefully we’ll be able to exploit them.”
One to watch: Kristian Dennis – 27-year-old striker had a stunning career in non-league bagging a number of goals for Mossley, Curzon Ashton and Stockport County before joining Macclesfield.
A prolific spell with the Silkmen during the 2015-16 season, netting 23 goals in 39 matches, prompted the move to Chesterfield in the summer.
Couldn’t quite recapture his form at League One level, scoring 10 in 42 last season, which included a red hot run of five goals in seven matches during the early stages of the season.
Has found League One more to his liking though as he netted in both the club’s opening games and had four in the first six appearances, with the goal at Accrington on Saturday taking his tally to five in 10 so far.
Played for both: Scott Griffiths – defender had two spells on loan at Chesterfield, joining from Peterborough in August 2010, playing 33 times for the Spireites.
Returned in November 2011, where he made a further four appearances, before moving to Luton from the Posh in March 2013.
Stayed for three years, helping the club reach the Football League once more and went on to make 115 appearances for the Hatters, scoring three times, until his contract wasn’t renewed and the full back appears to have retired from the full time game, unable to find a club since.
Friendly faces: Town assistant boss Paul Hart was appointed Chesterfield manager 1988, although couldn’t stave off relegation to the old Division Three.
Led them to the play-off final at Wembley the following season, ending in a 1-0 defeat to Cambridge, with Dion Dublin scoring, before he was sacked on New Year’s Day in 1991.
We’ve got form: Hatters go into the match protecting a long unbeaten record against the Spireites at Kenilworth Road, as they haven’t lost since a 1-0 home defeat in Division Two on September 1996, some eight games and 21 years ago.
The visitors have not scored in their last five visits to Bedfordshire either, going back to the 1-1 draw on Boxing Day 1999, when David Reeves netted, while they have only managed two in their last 10 trips.
In total, Luton have won 12, drawn five and lost three of their 20 meetings since a 3-0 home defeat back in 1899, netting 33 goals and conceding 13.
They did enjoy a 66-year unbeaten run from that first defeat, beaten 2-1 in 1965 in Division Four, which included a 5-0 win in 1938 thanks to four from Hugh Billington in a Division Two match.
Last time out: Luton eased past Chesterfield 4-0 in their last meeting at Kenilworth Road, a Checkatrade Trophy knock out tie last season.
Craig Mackail-Smith put Luton in front from the penalty spot on 23 minutes, before Jack Marriott made it 2-0 moments later.
After the break, Marriott had his second (51), while Isaac Vassell completed the rout with four minutes to go.
Hatters: Christian Walton, Stephen O’Donnell, Jack Senior, Glen Rea, Frankie Musonda, Jonathan Smith, Jake Gray (Olly Lee 62), Jordan Cook, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Craig Mackail-Smith (Zane Banton 77), Jack Marriott (Isaac Vassell 77).
Subs not used: Craig King, Johnny Mullins, Tyreeq Bakinson, Kavan Cotter.
Referee: Charles Breakspear.